Having a cell phone has changed my whole life. It means a whole phrase has been entirely removed from my vocabulary because I’ve got a smartphone. I never need to say the words: “I don’t know” ever again. Any random factoid, any piece of trivia, anything that I in any moment want to know the answer to, I can pull out my phone and the omnipotence of the Internet is available for me to find an answer.
Now, just like most good things, this does tend to be a double edged sword. There are some negative consequences to having immediate access to every single answer and expecting that immediate access. It amplifies the fear of being wrong. Now, Revelation 22 deals with some sins concerning what we add or take away from the Bible.
I give this warning to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18)
The sin of adding something to the Bible that God hadn’t talked about is called legalism. Legalism is when you take God’s word and you amplify it for one reason or another. Jesus would consistently come after the Pharisees for their legalism, adding new rules on to the Bible in order to make themselves look better. But there’s another source that can be a potent source of legalism, and that is simple, old fashioned fear.
We crave the security of being right, but in this world, there’s so much uncertainty that we’re confronted with. We’re worried about political circumstances. We’re worried about financial situations. We’re worried about the direction that our lives should take. I had a teacher a long time ago. She was convinced that by thoroughly searching through scripture, she had found the answer to what breakfast cereal God wanted her to have in the morning. We live in a world of uncertainty.
The Bible is a book about salvation. It’s about that one topic. But we’re faced with fear, how do we react to the latest scientific discovery? How do we react to the latest bill that’s being proposed? We think that not knowing right now, right away the answer to whatever challenge it is that comes our direction will reflect badly on us and maybe by extension, reflect badly on God.
This fear can lead us to say more than the Bible does in terms of how we vote, what life decisions we make, how we view the world, what breakfast cereals to have in the morning. To combat this fear. God throws something truly frightening out at us in these last verses of the book of Revelation. That he would pour out plagues on anyone who adds anything to the words in scripture.
Now, at first, this seems like just a naked threat, something to make us worried and scared. And that’s legitimate. We should fear adding anything to scripture. But at the same time, as Christians, there’s a tremendous comfort to be drawn from how aggressively God is ready to defend his word. He shows us what his priorities are in these verses. He wants to keep scripture, his word, his plan for salvation, pure and clear and able to be delivered to you.
He reminds us of the ultimate truth while we could do nothing, He did everything. While we knew nothing, He knew just what we needed. When we struggled, lost in our sins, grasping for any way out, He sent his Son with a plan. On the cross Jesus bore all sins. He even carried the sin of muddying the things that God had said, the sin of legalism. He hung that on his shoulders and died, leaving it there. While we knew nothing, God sent his Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts to trust our savior and secure the way to eternal life. We can embrace our own weakness and throw ourselves on God in confidence, even not always knowing the right way to go. Always certain of the one most important thing: eternal life, secured by Jesus.